The same week General Motors vowed it would eliminate tailpipe emissions from all its light-duty vehicles by 2035 with an eye toward being carbon neutral by 2040, Nissan made a prediction of its own. The difference is, Nissan’s estimate is much, much more conservative. So conservative, in fact, that the Japanese automaker may as well have said nothing at all.
First off, the company plans to achieve net-zero emissions from top to bottom by 2050, which is in line with the likes of Ford and Volkswagen. Like GM, Volvo plans to get there a decade earlier. From Nissan’s press release:
Nissan’s goal builds on its decades-long programs to reduce emissions and provide electric vehicle technologies that benefit the environment and society. The company’s electrification and emissions reduction efforts support the aims of the U.N. Paris Agreement on climate change and global progress toward carbon neutrality by 2050.
All well and good, but it’s Nissan’s timeline for electrification across its range that seems especially safe and markedly less ambitious than what other automakers are targeting:
As part of this effort, by the early 2030s every all-new Nissan vehicle offering in key markets will be electrified.
Nissan will pursue further innovations in electrification and manufacturing technology to make progress on the company’s carbon neutrality goal in the following strategic areas:
• Battery innovations including solid-state and related technologies to develop cost-competitive and more efficient electric vehicles
• Further development of Nissan’s e-POWER electrified powertrains to achieve greater energy efficiency
• Development of a battery ecosystem to support decentralized, onsite power generation for buildings with renewable energy sources. Nissan anticipates increased collaboration with the energy sector to support the decarbonization of power grids
• Manufacturing process innovations to support higher productivity in vehicle assembly, starting with the Nissan Intelligent Factory initiative. The company will also strive for greater energy and material efficiencies to support longer-term carbon neutrality ambitions.
To clarify, Nissan isn’t saying it’ll exclusively offer fully-electric vehicles in the “key markets” of Japan, China, the U.S. and Europe by the early 2030s; it’s saying that those cars and trucks will be merely electrified in some fashion. That allows for everything from a truly all-electric product to something with a gasoline range extender, or just a conventional hybrid.
The automaker isn’t predicting when it’ll cut out internal combustion engines entirely like GM says it’ll do by 2035. You can also contrast Nissan’s rather timid projection with Honda’s, which has stated a desire to make all of its European sales electrified by 2025. Granted, that’s just one continent and not something Honda evidently thinks it can pull off globally so soon. Nissan hasn’t spoken to whether it expects certain key markets to achieve exclusively electrified sales before others.
Part of Nissan’s reticence might have something to do with the dismissive attitude many Japanese automakers have taken toward electric cars within the past decade, all the while European, American, Korean and Chinese manufacturers have based their entire future business models around them. Of course, Toyota was the first to demonstrate the value of electrification to the masses with the Prius, while Nissan was one of the first to offer a modern all-electric car in the form of the Leaf. Today, Toyota still has no pure EV offering — opting instead to throw its weight behind hybrids and the hydrogen-powered Mirai — while Nissan still only has the Leaf.
Only recently have Nissan and its domestic contemporaries appeared ready to commit to EVs. Given the early roles they served in kicking off the shift away from ICE propulsion, it’s kind of surprising that they allowed foreign rivals catch up and exceed their work in many respects.
Tokyo recently mandated that all vehicles sold in the city be electrified by 2030. Contrast that to some entire countries in Europe, which are seeking to ban the sale of new cars that employ gasoline at all as soon as 2025, or, in more cases, 2030, according to data compiled by Charged Future. Reading between the lines, it’s clear that regional regulations have pressured some automakers to respond sooner rather than later. Nissan firmly seems to be on the “later” track.